PIDs As HazMat Response Tools

PIDs As HazMat Response Tools

Application Note AP-230

rev 1 el.09-05

Response Guidelines for Inadvertent Movement or Illicit Trafficking of

Radioactive Material

In the world after September 11, 2001,

radiological attacks are a real and viable threat.

The best way to handle this threat is to prevent

those who would stage an attack from obtaining

the necessary radioactive material. While most

countries have processes in place to regulate and

track their stores of radioactive material, there

are still many orphaned radioactive sources

available to terrorists. To prevent this material

from being surreptitiously imported for terrorist

uses, it is critically important to monitor for

radioactive material movement at a country’s


Radioactive material can move across borders in

three ways. The first is in a legitimate shipment,

accompanied by a proper manifest documenting

the exact amount and type of material. The

second is inadvertent movement—for example,

transporting steel contaminated by a melted

radioactive source that was lost from proper

accounting controls. The third method,

deliberate, illegal movement of radioactive

materials, is considered to be illicit trafficking.

The last two scenarios require strategic action

from a response organization.

The goal of any response to inadvertent

movement or illicit trafficking of radioactive

material is to minimize possible health hazards,

gain control over the radioactive material, and to

investigate, gather evidence, and prosecute any

offenders in the incident.

The response structure described in this

Application Note is based on the International

Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) TECDOC

Response To Events Involving The Inadvertent

Movement Or Illicit Trafficking Of Radioactive


Response Levels

Three levels of response are recommended in

order to address the number of possible events.

In increasing order of seriousness, these response

levels are Operational, Tactical, and Strategic.

Most events are dealt with on the Operational

level, as most incidents involve inadvertent, not

illicit, movement of radioactive material, and

present no substantial inherent health hazard.

Some cases necessitate a higher Tactical level of

response, and require several organizations to

work together. A Strategic response is reserved

for the rare, most serious events, and can involve

activation of a regional or national emergency

response plan.

Operation and Tactical response methods and

considerations are covered in this Application

Note. Strategic responses require cooperation

between organizations on a national level and are

outside the scope of this Application Note.

Response Types

Two types of response can be identified:

reactive, in which radioactive material is found

and then evaluated, and proactive, in which

information regarding radioactive material is

received, leading to a search for and evaluation

of the material.

General Response Structure

On-the-Scene Initial Response (for those

personnel at the scene when the incident occurs)

1. Evaluate the need for border radiation


2. Purchase and install the needed


3. Determine the appropriate response

actions for each equipment alarm.

4. Verify and evaluate the alarm and respond

appropriately, according to the plan.

5. Evaluate the radioactive material.


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Application Note AP-230

rev 1 el.09-05

Steps 1 through 3 should be performed prior to

an incident, during the setup of a response

structure. Steps 4 and 5 are performed by those

responders at the scene when the incident occurs,

and is likely to be repeated by the first

responders activated by an Operational response.

FIG. 1: Flowchart showing the initial response to inadvertent movement or illicit trafficking of

radioactive materials. (Reprinted by permission of IAEA, from TECDOC-1313, “Response To Events

Involving The Inadvertent Movement Or Illicit Trafficking Of Radioactive Materials.”)


RAE Systems Inc.

3775 N. First St., San Jose, CA 95134-1708 USA

Phone: +1.888.723.8823


Web Site:

Application Note AP-230

rev 1 el.09-05

Operational Response

1. Verify and evaluate the alarm.

2. Assess the radiological situation to

ensure the appropriate further response.

3. Notify senior staff or the appropriate


4. Locate the radioactive source.

5. Identify the radioactive material.

6. Take control of and temporarily store the

radioactive material.

7. Investigate the situation.

8. Report back to senior staff or the

appropriate organization.

Verifying And Evaluating The Alarm

Use a second set of equipment to verify the

alarm and the increase in radiation dose rate.

Assessing The Radiological Situation

Assess the radiological situation and find the

general location of the source using dose rate

meters (detectors or survey meters). If any of the

following three conditions are noted, notify

senior staff immediately, as further evaluation by

a radiological specialist is needed. A higher-level

response may also be required. The first

responder should then withdraw to a safe


• A dose rate level greater than 10 mrem/h

(0.1 mSv/h) at one meter from any

surface or object.

• Neutron radiation that is not confirmed to

be from a legal shipment of radiological


• Loose, spilled, or leaking radiological

material, indicating contamination of the


At any scene where radiological contamination is

suspected, personnel should never eat, drink, or

smoke, as it is possible to ingest the radiological

material by doing so.

Notifying Senior Staff

When notifying senior staff and other

appropriate organizations, include as much of the

following information as possible:

• Dose rate measurements and locations.

• Presence and location of packages with

radiation warnings or symbols.

• The specific packaging of the suspected

radiological material, including its

condition (e.g., is it damaged or


• Any labels, placards, shipping

documents, and so forth, to indicate the

nature of, or to identify, the radiological


The supervisor should then evaluate the situation

based on the report and call for a higher-level

response, if needed.

Locating The Source

If the source’s location has not already been

found, and it is safe to do so, the first responder

should locate the radioactive source. After the

materials are located, they should be isolated, if

necessary, for safety measures. It is important to

note that it is not necessary to open any items

containing radioactive material. This only

increases the chance of creating loose


Identifying The Radioactive Material

If no considerable health hazards are associated

with the incident, the first responder should

attempt to identify the radioactive source. In the

vast majority of legal radioactive material

shipments, the responsible parties possess

authentic documentation to support the shipment.

All materials are appropriately labeled and

shielded for safety considerations. Lack of this

documentation, incorrect labeling, and/or

inadequate packaging or shielding typically

indicate inadvertent movement or illicit



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Phone: +1.888.723.8823


Web Site:

Application Note AP-230

rev 1 el.09-05

It is also possible that the material is an innocent

source. If this is the case, terminate the response

and record the details.

Taking Control Of And Storing The

Radioactive Material

If illicit trafficking is suspected, the area should

be treated as a crime scene so that evidence may

be gathered later. If the radioactive material is

not hazardous, is should be removed from the

scene and temporarily stored in a secure place.

When moving the material, never touch the

source directly. Use a tool, such as tongs or

forceps, to move the material.

Investigate The Situation

Carry out an investigation into the incident. This

is required regardless of whether the incident is a

case of inadvertent movement or illicit


Report Back To Senior Staff

Report to senior staff or the appropriate

organization at any point when noteworthy

additional data becomes available, especially if

the event can be categorized as an innocent

alarm, inadvertent movement, or illicit

trafficking of radioactive material.

Tactical Response

For more hazardous radiological situations, a

higher-level response is required, and

management of the incident should be passed on

to a predefined command structure. If the

incident is serious enough to pose a threat to the

public or the environment, a full Strategic

response should be initiated.

A command structure should be developed by

each region/area to fit its own organizational

needs and skills. In addition, this structure can

vary, dependent on the radiological situation and

location. Key people in any command structure

should be:

• Incident Commander: Responsible for

deployment and management of

resources at the scene.

• Radiological Advisor: Responsible for

radiation surveys, contamination control,

radiological protection support to

responders and the public, and expert

advice to the Incident Commander.

• Incident Investigation Officer:

Responsible for incident investigation,

interviewing and arresting suspects,

gathering evidence from the scene, and

preparing for future prosecutions.

Command Center

A Command Center should be established at the

scene of the incident and should be a central

point of contact for all responders and

responding organizations. The Command Center

should be:

• Located away from external radiation

hazards, and upwind of any radioactive


• Accessible to the scene of the incident.

• Clearly marked.

• Secure and accessible only authorized

personnel. The media should not be

allowed into the Command Center.

• Large enough to accommodate all

responding organizations.

If mobile phones and radios are to be used for

communications, they should be encrypted for


Cordoned-off Areas

Restricted-access areas should be established to

maintain control of the incident scene:

• Inner cordon: Around the radioactive

source. The dose rate at the border and

outside of this area should be no greater

than 10 mrem/h (0.1 mSv/h). Expand this

area if airborne contamination is

suspected or known. There should be a

single access point where personnel are


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3775 N. First St., San Jose, CA 95134-1708 USA

Phone: +1.888.723.8823


Web Site:

Application Note AP-230

rev 1 el.09-05

logged in and out of the area. No

unnecessary personnel should enter this

area. The principles of ALARA (As Low

As Reasonably Achievable; see

discussion under “General Health And

Safety Considerations) should be


• Outer cordon: “Security” cordon. This

area should encompass the inner cordon

completely, and contain a

decontamination station, as well as a

single access point where personnel are

logged in and out of the area.

FIG. 2: Area cordoned off, with command center and

decontamination station.


If loose contamination is suspected or confirmed,

it’s possible that any suspects detained at the

scene may be contaminated, and may in turn

contaminate the arresting officers. The suspects

and officers should be monitored for

contamination, and decontaminated if necessary.


A person or piece of equipment should be

decontaminated if monitoring yields a reading

equal to or twice the background level. Trauma

should be treated first if the person’s condition is


Note that untrained individuals can make their

contamination situation worse by attempting to

improperly decontaminate themselves. The

radiological advisor, or his/her appointee, should

monitor decontamination procedures to ensure

safe and effective decontaminations.

Seizure And Storage Of Radioactive


The IAEA recommends that the Investigation

Officer initiate the request to seize the

radioactive materials and remove them from the

immediate scene under the supervision of the

Radiological Advisor. The Radiological Advisor

should approve all seizure plans to ensure that all

precautions are taken to protect the public,

responders, and environment.

The location of the scene plays a key role in

determining when the radioactive materials

should/can be seized. If the scene is located in a

place where cordon controls can be maintained

for extended periods of time, the site and

materials can be fully analyzed and a plan for

later seizure made prior to removal. However, if

the scene is located at a place where maintaining

cordon controls for long periods of time is

expected to be difficult, such as an airport or

border crossing point, a plan for quick seizure of

the material should be made, and the material

removed as soon as possible.

If the radioactive material needs to be seized

quickly, it may be possible to temporarily store it

at the scene. The radioactive material storage

area should be secure and shielded, and the

material should be placed in appropriate


Seizing and disposing of loose or unshielded

materials, particularly those in powder or liquid

form, may require extensive resources over a

longer period of time to reduce health hazards

and unnecessary exposures, and to prevent the

further spread of contamination.


RAE Systems Inc.

3775 N. First St., San Jose, CA 95134-1708 USA

Phone: +1.888.723.8823


Web Site:

Application Note AP-230

rev 1 el.09-05

Investigation Of The Incident

An investigation into the incident is required in

all cases of inadvertent movement and illicit

trafficking. A full investigation should include

interviews/arrests of suspects, evidence

collection, and initiation of the legal process to

prosecute any suspects.

When gathering evidence at the scene, the

investigative officer should be accompanied by a

radiation safety officer equipped with personal

dosimetry, survey meters, and protective

clothing. Care should be taken to safely handle

any item gathered from the scene.

General Health And Safety


The Radiological Advisor is responsible for

ensuring that all activities are undertaken in the

safest way possible with regard to radiological

exposure. All doses should be maintained

ALARA (see below).


All radiation doses to personnel should be

maintained As Low As Reasonably Achievable

(ALARA). This means that the following three

principles shall be applied when possible:

• Time: Personnel should minimize their

radiation dose by remaining near the

source (in the inner cordon) for as little

time as possible.

• Distance: Personnel should minimize

their dose by staying as far away from the

source as possible.

• Shielding: Personnel should minimize

their dose by keeping other items

between themselves and the source as

much as possible. This includes walls,

furniture, and any other solid objects at

the scene.

Casualties and injuries

If there are casualties at the scene, radiological

contamination considerations must be taken into

account when treating the injured individuals. If

injuries are not life-threatening, monitor

individuals for contamination and decontaminate

them if necessary before medical treatment, if

possible. If an individual’s condition is lifethreatening,

follow the following steps:

1. Perform any life-saving procedures.

2. Monitor the individual for contamination.

3. Remove contaminated clothing, if


4. If not possible, contain the contamination

by wrapping the individual in a blanket.

This prevents the spread of

contamination to the ambulance and

hospital emergency room.

5. Take the individual to a hospital for


6. Monitor the individual and the

emergency personnel for radiological

contamination, and decontaminate if


Contamination And Exposure

If any personnel are contaminated at the scene,

they should be decontaminated as soon as

possible. Contamination is indicated by a reading

equal to or exceeding twice background levels

when an individual is monitored. Internal and

external contamination and exposure should be

reduced in the following manner:

• Do not disturb any leaking or spilled

materials, particularly those from

suspicious containers.

• Do not disturb the contents of any

suspicious containers.

• Never eat, drink, or smoke in the

cordoned-off areas, or before being

monitored for contamination after

working at the scene.

• Do not touch any suspicious substances

or radioactive sources.

• Protective clothing can be worn to

prevent skin contamination. Note that

arrangements must be made for the

disposal of contaminated protective



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3775 N. First St., San Jose, CA 95134-1708 USA

Phone: +1.888.723.8823


Web Site:

Application Note AP-230

rev 1 el.09-05

• If airborne contamination is suspected or

confirmed, personnel working at the

scene may need to use respiratory

protection. Note that many respirators

require special training and fitting, and

that only those who are trained should

use the equipment.

• When surveying an area for radiation,

make sure that you know the limits of

your equipment—dose rate ranges,

response times, and the types of radiation

the equipment detects. For maximum

safety, make sure that your survey

equipment is turned on when

approaching any suspicious objects.


Radiological terrorism is a threat. Preventing

terrorists from obtaining the radioactive material

needed for a radiological attack is key in

preventing the attack itself. In order to

effectively do this, international borders and

other points of entry into a country should be

monitored for radioactive material. Personnel

working at these locations, as well as responders

and response organizations in the community,

should be aware of the possibilities and how to

respond to an incident.

The information contained in this Application

Note is intended as a brief overview of the

response mechanisms needed in a case of

inadvertent movement or illicit trafficking of

radioactive material. It is not intended to be a

replacement for emergency response planning,

training, and practicing. Additional information

about emergency response planning can be found

in reference 1, IAEA-TECDOC-953, “Method

For The Development Of Emergency Response

Preparedness For Nuclear Or Radiological



1. International Atomic Energy Agency,

“Method For The Development Of

Emergency Response Preparedness For

Nuclear Or Radiological Accidents,”

IAEA-TECDOC-953, Vienna (1997).

2. International Atomic Energy Agency,

Response To Events Involving The

Inadvertent Movement Or Illicit

Trafficking Of Radioactive Materials,”

IAEA-TECDOC-1313, Vienna (2002).


1. International Atomic Energy Agency


2. US Department of Homeland Security,

3. Federal Emergency Management Agency

(FEMA), Emergency Management

Institute (EMI),

4. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission


5. FEMA,


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Web Site:

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